Music: Invoking The Hawk's Spirit by Mesa Music Consort
|Badger and the Green Giant
A Wabanaki Legend
There was in the Old Time a great rogue named Badger. The Wabanaki storytellers, who talk of men as though they were animals and animals as
though they were men, sometimes spoke of Badger as a man and sometimes as an animal. It was agreed, however, that he had something of Lox in
him-Lox, you remember, who was the son of Evil and who sometimes took on the form of a badger. And that is how this Indian known as Badger
got his name.
Now this fearless and impudent rascal live a carefree life on the labor of others, having no time from merrymaking to spend on hunting. One
summer when food was scarce, the Chief of Badger's tribe said to him:
"You take all and give nothing. We can no longer afford to share our meat with you. This is what we have decided. You will be given food for half a
moon's journey. You will then be too far away to trouble us, and must live as you can."
For once, Badger's face lost its grin.
"Who will take care of Little Brother when I'm gone?" he demanded. Now you see, Badger was not all bad. He had a small brother who was gentle
and shy and not very clever, and ever since the boys had lost their parents, Badger had looked after Little Brother and treated him with affection.
"He will be given a home with foster parents," said the Chief, but Little Brother burst into tears.
"I want to go with my elder brother," he wailed.
"Very well, come along," said Badger, and grinned saucily at the people. "Thanks, my friends, for giving us a chance to see the world!" Then, with all
their possessions in a blanket slung over Badger's shoulder, the two set jauntily off into the woods. However, they did not go far. Badger stopped
before the mouth of a small cave and told Little Brother to go inside.
"This food will last you until the full of the moon, when I shall return," he said. "I must play one last trick on our late friends!'
Then Badger dressed himself in the beads and feathers of a medicine man and put a mask on his face. Medicine men, you know, were the doctors of
the Indians. Some of them understood how to make medicine from herbs and how to cure people; but others, like Badger, were frauds.
He knew that his former tribe had no medicine man at present, so he went back to the village and announced that he was a powerful man of magic.
Not recognizing Badger behind the mask, his old neighbors treated him with great respect. They gave him a wigwam to live in and shared their food
with him, begging him to treat their sick and use his magic to make meat more plentiful.
For a while, Badger played the medicine man with glee. He beat his drum and shook his rattle, and pretended to summon spirits. He sold charms
and fell into traces, and all the time behind his mask, he was laughing. However, game in the district grew scarcer and scarcer, and as the people
grew hungrier, they began to lose faith in the medicine man. If he was really a magician, why did he not make hunting better?
One day, near the full of the moon, a long loud wail came from the forest. The Indians shook with fear, but not Badger, who knew at once what it
meant. It was Little Brother crying because he was lonely and his food was gone. The wail came again.
"It is the giant, Famine," said Badger with a long face. "He says he is coming to this village."
Then all the people began to groan with dismay, for when Famine comes, he brings death by starvation.
"Never fear," said Badger calmly, "for I, your medicine man, will go out to meet him and drive him away."
The people exclaimed with gratitude and admiration.
"Give me a bag of tallow," said Badger, "to take with me, for I shall need plenty of strength to defeat that fellow."
Tallow was a kind of fat, a great delicacy with the Indians in olden times. It was made by pounding and breaking the bones of a moose, then boiling
the bones until the grease came to the top. The grease, a white substance as hard as wax, was then skimmed off with a wooden spoon. It was so
nourishing, hunters used to take it with them on long hunting expeditions as their only provision.
So the people gave Badger a large bag of tallow, the last they had, and off he went, crying out in a commanding voice, "Ahhh Chowwwaaa!" The
Indians thought this a cry of defiance against the giant, but it was really the secret name Badger had for his brother, to let him know he was coming.
They waited and listened, but heard no sound of battle. They waited long-and in vain-for the return of their medicine man.
Meanwhile, deep in the forest, Badger and Little Brother were feasting on tallow, laughing together at Badger's cleverness, when suddenly they heard
a rushing sound in the forest. Badger jumped up, alarmed, as huge feet came crashing through the underbrush. The trees swayed as a great hand
flung them aside, and all at once a fearsome giant stood before the brothers. His face was as green as the grass, and his hair sprang out from his
huge head like needles on pine boughs. Before Badger knew what was happening, the Green Giant had seized Little Brother in his mighty green hand
and had stuffed him into the bag he carried on his shoulder.
"Save me," shrieked Little Brother.
Badger rushed upon the giant furiously, biting and punching and kicking, but the giant only laughed.
"What is tickling my legs?" he asked.
"Give me back my Little Brother," stormed Badger.
"Certainly," said the Green Giant, "as soon as you bring me the magic food of Glooscap which never grows less, no matter how much of it is eaten."
Poor badger stared at the giant in dismay. It was a long way to Blomidon where Glooscap lived, and the path to it was full of danger. Moreover,
there was no certainty of Glooscap giving him the food when he got there.
"I shall wait for you here," the Green Giant shouted, "but only for the space of time it takes the sun to run its full course. If you do not bring the food
by then, I shall have to eat Little Brother instead."
Without a word, Badger turned and set off through the trees at top speed. Late that same day, tired and breathless, he reached the shore of Minas
Basin and looked up at Blomidon's red slopes, immense against the darkening sky. He knew, in order to find Glooscap's lodge, he must climb to the
very top. He was terribly tired, and yearned to rest, but the thought of Little Brother in the hands of the Green Giant drove him up the red slope as
fast as possible.
The red stone was slippery and covered him with red dust, but he kept on. Branches of low spruce and juniper scratched his face and tore his hands,
but he paid no attention. His lungs pained, his head throbbed. His throat was hot and dry as he dragged himself the last few yards, and tumbled
over full length on the grass at the summit. Too worn out for a moment to move, Badger lay still, recovering his breath. Then he got wearily to his
feet. There stood Glooscap's great wigwam, a fire glowing dimly within. The Great Chief himself was nowhere in sight, nor was there any sign of
Noogumee, Glooscap's grandmother, or of Marten his servant. Badger could not wait for their return to ask for the food-there was no time. Besides,
the Great Chief might refuse to give it to him. Badger must get the food somehow and hurry back to the Green Giant.
He crept into the lodge and looked around, then cried out softly with triumph. A dish of Glooscap's magic food stood beside the fire. He had only to
reach out and take it; but as his fingers curved around the dish they were struck aside.
"Stop, thief!" a stern voice commanded. And Badger looked up to see the great Glooscap towering over him. But his fear for Little Brother was even
greater than his fear of the Great Chief.
"Please, Master!" he cried. "Give me the magic food. I must save my brother from the Green Giant."
"Why should I give you anything," asked Glooscap, "you who have robbed and made fun of your neighbors?"
"You can't let Little Brother die," Badger cried. "It wasn't his fault. If you don't help me, the giant will eat him!"
"Will he?" asked Glooscap mysteriously, and before Badger's surprised eyes, his shape began to change. His skin became green, his hair stood out
from his head in green spikes, and his green face assumed a ferocious expression.
"The Green Giant was you all the time!" gasped Badger.
"And I hope he has taught you a lesson," said Glooscap, resuming his own appearance. "Are you sorry for the way you have behaved?'
"Yes, indeed," cried Badger.
"And will you promise to give up your silly tricks and do your share of the hunting?"
"I will, I will, if only--"
"Then look behind you."
Badger turned and saw Little Brother, smiling and unharmed, standing beside the fire. So great was Badger's relief, he nearly cried. For the first
time, too, he realized how tired he was, and how hungry. The old impudent grin reappeared.
"I don't suppose," he suggested, "you could spare me a taste of that food?"
"Certainly not!" said Glooscap indignantly, "not until you can share it with the people you robbed of their tallow. Take this food to them at once. It
will never grow less, no matter how much is eaten, until game is again plentiful in the forest."
When the people of Badger's old village saw him bringing the magic food of Glooscap, they forgave him and welcomed him back into the tribe.
Famine no longer troubled the Indians, and Badger behaved himself for quite some time.
But if you think he had played his last trick, you are much mistaken, for you will hear again in time of Badger, and his mischief-making.
Until then, kespeadooksit!
All Rights Reserved
|Mooin, The Bear's Child
A Wabanaki Legend
Now in the Old Time there lived a boy called Sigo, whose father had died when he was a baby. Sigo was too young to hunt and provide food for the
wigwam, so his mother was obliged to take another husband, a jealous spiteful man who soon came to dislike his small stepson, for he thought the
mother cared more for the child than for himself. He thought of a plan to be rid of the boy.
"Wife," said he, "it' is time the boy learned something of the forest. I will take him with me today, hunting."
"Oh, no!" cried his wife. "Sigo is far to young!"
But the husband snatched the boy and took him into the forest, while the mother wept, for she knew her husband's jealous heart.
The stepfather knew of a cave deep in the forest, a deep cave that led into a rocky hill. To this cave, he led his stepson and told him to go inside and
hunt for the tracks of rabbit. The boy hung back.
"It is dark in there. I am afraid."
"Afraid!" scoffed the man. "A fine hunter you'll make," and he pushed the boy roughly into the cave. "Stay in there until I tell you to come out."
Then the stepfather took a pole and thrust it under a huge boulder so that it tumbles over and covered the mouth of the cave completely. He knew well
there was no other opening. The boy was shut in for good and would soon die of starvation.
The stepfather left the place, intending to tell the boy's mother that her son had been disobedient, had run off and got lost, and he had been unable to
find him. He would not return home at once. He would let time pass, as if he had been looking for the boy. Another idea occurred to him. He would
spend the time on Blomidon's beach and collect some of Glooscap's purple stones to take as a peace offering to his wife. She might suspect, but
nothing could be proved, and nobody would ever know what had happened.
Nobody? There was one who knew already. Glooscap the Great Chief was well aware of what had happened and he was angry, very angry. He
struck his great spear into the red stone of Blomidon and the clip split. Earth and stones tumbled down, down, down to the beach, burying the
wicked stepfather and killing him instantly.
Then Glooscap called upon a faithful servant, Porcupine, and told him what he was to do.
In the cave in the hillside, Sigo cried out his loneliness and fear. He was only six after all, and he wanted his mother. Suddenly he heard a voice.
"Sigo! Come this way."
He saw two glowing eyes and went towards them, trembling. The eyes grew bigger and brighter and at last he could see they belonged to an old
"Don't cry any more, my son," said Porcupine. "I am here to help you," and the boy was afraid no longer. He watched as Porcupine went to the cave
entrance and tried to push away the stone, but the stone was too heavy. Porcupine put his lips to the crack of light between boulder and hill side and
called out: "Friends of Glooscap! Come around, all of you!"
The animals and birds heard him and came-- Wolf, Raccoon, Caribou, Turtle, Possum, Rabbit, and Squirrel, and birds of all kinds from Turkey to
"A boy has been left here to die," called the old Porcupine from inside the cave. "I am not strong enough to move the rock. Help us or we are lost."
The animals called back that they would try. First Raccoon marched up and tried to wrap his arms around the stone, but they were much too short.
Then Fox came and bit and scratched at the boulder, but he only made his lips bleed. Then Caribou stepped up and, thrusting her long antlers into the
crack, she tried to pry the stone loose, but only broke off one of her antlers. It was no use. In the end, all gave up. They could not move the stone.
"Kwah-ee," a new voice spoke. "What is going on?" They turned and saw Mooinskw, which means she-bear, who had come quietly out of the
woods. Some of the smaller animals were frightened and hid, but the others told Mooinskw what had happened. She promptly embraced the boulder
in the cave's mouth and heaved with all her great strength. With a rumble and a crash, the stone rolled over. Then out came Sigo and Porcupine,
Porcupine thanked the animals for their help and said, "Now I must find someone to take care of this boy and bring him up. My food is not the best
for him. Perhaps there is someone here whose diet will suit him better. The boy is hungry-- who will bring him food?"
All scattered at once in search of food. Robin was the first to return, and he laid down worms before the boy, but Sigo could not eat them. Beaver
came next, with bark, but the boy shook his head. Others brought seeds and insects, but Sigo, hungry as he was, could not touch any of them. At last
came Mooinshw and held out a flat cake made of blue berries. They boy seized it eagerly and ate.
"Oh, how good it is," he cried. And Porcupine nodded wisely.
"From now on," he said, "Mooinskw will be this boy's foster mother."
So Sigo went to live with the bears. Besides the mother bear, there were two boy cubs and a girl cub. All were pleased to have a new brother and they
soon taught Sigo all their tricks and all the secrets of the forest, and Sigo was happy with his new-found family. Gradually, he forgot his old life.
Even the face of his mother grew dim in memory and, walking often on all fours as the bears did, he almost began to think he was a bear.
One spring when Sigo was ten, the bears went fishing for smelts. Mooinskw walked into the water, seated herself on her haunches and commenced
seizing the smelts and tossing them out on the bank to the children. All were enjoying themselves greatly when suddenly Mooinskw plunged to the
shore, crying, "Come children, hurry!" She had caught the scent of man. "Run for your lives!"
As they ran, she stayed behind them, guarding them, until at last they were safe at home.
"What animal was that, Mother?" asked Sigo.
"That was a hunter," said his foster-mother, "a human like yourself, who kills bears for food." And she warned them all to be very watchful from
now on. "You must always run from the sight or scent of a hunter."
Not long afterwards, the bear family went with other bear families to pick blueberries for the winter. The small ones soon tired of picking and the
oldest cub had a sudden mischievous thought.
"Chase me towards the crowd," he told Sigo, "just as men do when they hunt bears. The others will be frightened and run away. Then we can have
all the berries for ourselves."
So Sigo began to chase his brothers towards the other bears, whooping loudly, and the bears at once scattered in all directions. All, that is, except the
mother bear who recognized the voice of her adopted son.
"Offspring of Lox!" she cried. "What mischief are you up to now?" And she rounded up the children and spanked them soundly, Sigo too.
So the sun crossed the sky each day and the days grew shorter. At last the mother bear led her family to their winter quarters in a large hollow tree.
For half the winter they were happy and safe, with plenty of blueberry cakes to keep them from being hungry. Then, one sad day, the hunters found
Seeing the scratches on its trunk, they guessed that bears were inside, and they prepared to smoke them out into the open.
Mooinskw knew well enough what was about to happen and that not all would escape.
"I must go out first," she said, "and attract the man's attention, while you two cubs jump out and run away. Then you, Sigo, show yourself and plead
for your little sister. Perhaps they will spare her for your sake."
And thus it happened, just as the brave and loving mother bear had said. As soon as she climbed down from the tree, the Indians shot her dead, but
the two male cubs had time to escape. Then Sigo rushed out, crying:
"I am human, like you. Spare the she-cub, my adopted sister."
The amazed Indians put down their arrows and spears and, when they had heard Sigo's story, they gladly spared the little she-bear and were sorry
they had killed Mooinskw who had been so good to an Indian child.
Sigo wept over the body of his foster mother and made a solemn vow.
"I shall be called Mooin, the bear's son, from this day forwards. And when I am grown, and a hunter, never will I kill a mother bear, or bear
And Mooin never did.
With his foster sister, he returned to his old village, to the great joy of his Indian mother, who cared tenderly for the she-cub until she was old enough
to care for herself.
And ever since then, when Indians see smoke rising from a hollow tree, they know a mother bear is in there cooking food for her children, and they
leave that tree alone.
Thus, kespeadooksit-- the story ends.
|The Changing of Mikcheech
A Wabanaki Legend
In a village in the Old Time, there once lived a Micmac named Mikcheech who was an old bachelor, very shabby and poor and, truth to tell,
somewhat lazy. He lived all alone, having no wife to care for him, and his neighbors paid him no attention, for he was neither rich nor clever nor
Yet he bore his wants with great good humor, and Glooscap loved him for his cheerful, easy ways.
One day Glooscap came to the lodge of Mikcheech. Mikcheech hailed him with delight, for he was lonely and any stranger who came to his wigwam
was sure of a welcome. He gave Glooscap the guest's place at the fire, shared with him his supper of fresh salmon and, after the meal, the two sat on
either side of the fire, smoking and laughing and telling stories.
Finally they sat together in contented silence until suddenly Glooscap asked his host why he had never married.
"Too lazy," Mikcheech admitted with a grin. "And now what maid would look at me, a homely old fellow with all his clothes full of holes!"
"You need a wife to mend those clothes," said Glooscap, "but first, I must do something."
And handing his magic belt to Mikcheech, he bade him put it on. No sooner was the belt clasped about the old fellow's waist than Mikcheech felt a
change come over him. He looked down at himself in amazement.
He was no longer a shabby old man, but a young and handsome brave in fine clothing.
"By the tail of the Beaver!" cried Mikcheech. "You can make a man over as easy as what he wears!"
But Glooscap shook his head.
"Not so. The outside of a man is easy, but the inside is another matter. It is hard to make over the whole of a man. Otherwise, I would not be so long
at work in the world."
Then Mikcheech knew his guest was Glooscap and was greatly alarmed.
"Fear not, Mikcheech," said Glooscap with a twinkle in his eye. "I am your friend. See now, I have done my part. The rest is up to you."
Then Mikcheech saw that Glooscap had played a fine trick on him. He had taken away his excuse for sitting about all day doing nothing. Now the
lazy Mikcheech must stir himself to find a bride.
"Very well," he said with his usual good humor. "I see my easy days are over. I shall get me a wife to keep me from idleness. But tell me, how long
will my new form last?"
"As long as you are a man," said Glooscap. "Now listen. There is a feast being held in the next village. Go there and choose a bride. I will await you
So Mikcheech went to the feast and the people there made the handsome stranger welcome, inviting him to dance. They danced, moving around in a
circle stamping their feet and uttering sharp cries, while a man in the center set the time on a cheegumakum.
Beyond the ring of male dancers sat the women watching. Mikcheech looked at them as he danced and saw the girl he wanted, the fairest of all in the
village --Mahia, the chief's youngest daughter. He knew immediately that no-one else would do.
He danced closer and ever closer to Mahia each time around the circle, until at the seventh round he was near enough to toss a small chip into her lap.
If the maid disdained him, she would frown and toss the chip away over her shoulder. If she returned his interest, she would smile and throw the
chip back to him.
The dancers circled again, and once more Mikcheech drew near the chief's daughter. To his joy, she smiled and flung the chip into his hands.
Mikcheech went straight to the chief of the tribe and, looking meaningfully at Mahia, said, "I am tired of living alone."
"You are a brave man," said the chief, giving him a strange look, "but if it is your wish, you may have her. Come to the highest place, my son-in-law."
And in this way Mikcheech and Mahia were married.
While his bride and her family prepared the wedding feast, Mikcheech hurried back to his own village to tell Glooscap of his good fortune, but
Glooscap did not look happy.
"You have chosen unwisely, my friend," he said.
"Mahia is the loveliest maid in the village!" cried Mikcheech.
"For that reason," said Glooscap, "all the young men desire her. None have dared so far to ask her hand in marriage, for it is known that whoever
wins her will be killed by the rest."
"Alas," sighed Mikcheech, "I am not much of a fighter. And I never like to exert myself unless it is absolutely necessary. However, I must have Mahia.
Tell me what I must do."
"It is hard, as I told you, to change the whole of a man, but I can do even that. Are you willing to be changed?"
"Certainly," cried Mikcheech, "so long as I may have Mahia all my days." "Very well," said Glooscap. "Do as I tell you, and before this day is through,
you will be changed --and because you are patient and tough, you will be changed into a creature very hard to kill. Now listen closely."
Then Glooscap told Mikcheech that after the wedding feast there would be games. During the games, the young men would seek to slay him by
crowding and trampling him to death.
"When they do this," said Glooscap, "it will be near your father-in-law's lodge, and to escape them you must jump over it."
Mikcheech was about to protest that he could never jump so high, but remembered in time that with Glooscap all things were possible.
"You will jump once, twice, three times," said Glooscap, "and the third time will be terrible for you. But it must be. If you are patient and brave, no
matter what happens, then you will become chief over a new nation, and bear up a great nation."
Now all happened as Glooscap had foretold.
The wedding of Mikcheech and Mahia was celebrated with a fine feast and dancing, and afterwards the young men played games.
In the last game, the young men crowded against Mikcheech and tried to trip him. Then Mikcheech leapt like a bird over the chief's lodge and all the
braves gasped with astonishment.
Soon recovering from their surprise, however, they drew their knives and hurried to the far side of the lodge, but once more Mikcheech soared over
the peak of the lodge.
"You'll have to jump high to catch me!" he cried merrily, and jumped for the third time.
This time, alas, Mikcheech caught on the crossed poles at the top of the lodge and hung there, helpless, dangling over the smoke-hole. The black
smoke rolled up and enveloped him, staining his flesh and stinging his eyes.
"Oh, great chief," groaned Mikcheech, "you are killing me!"
"Not so," he heard Glooscap say. "I am giving you new life. From this time you will have no fear of knives. You will be able to roll through fire and
never feel it. You will live in water as well as upon land."
Now the people could not see what was happening because of the smoke, nor could they understand the words of Glooscap for he was invisible and
spoke in a strange tongue which only Mikcheech could understand.
Then the smoke rolled away and they saw Mikcheech again, but terribly changed. His head was green, his hands and feet all wrinkled, and his back
was a hard shell streaked with smoke stains.
He had become a turtle!
No one had ever seen such a creature before but they knew it must be Mikcheech and they were just as determined as ever to kill him. So, thrusting
poles up from inside the lodge, they knocked him down.
Now although Mikcheech was no longer a man and no longer handsome, he was as good-humoured as ever. He held no grudge against Glooscap
for turning him into an animal and thought it a very good joke.
Remembering what Glooscap had foretold, he decided to turn the joke on those who were trying to kill him. So he pretended to be terribly frightened,
begging the young men with tears in his eyes not to kill him.
They, seeing his shell was much too hard to pierce with a knife, made to cut off his head --but Mikcheech pulled his head into his shell out of harm's
Then the young men decided to kill him by fire.
"No, no --please don't burn me," begged Mikcheech with pretended terror. "Anything but that!"
But the heartless youths built a huge fire and flung him into the midst of the flames. To their amazement, the turtle turned over lazily and went to
sleep, and when the fire had burned down a little, he awoke and called for more wood, saying he was cold!
Angrily, the young men dragged him from the fire and declared they would drown him instead. Hearing this, Mikcheech began to struggle mightily.
"Oh, oh! Please don't do that. Shoot me with arrows, burn me with fire, but don't drown me! You don't know how I dread water!"
The braves laughed and dragged him to the water's edge. Mikcheech fought lustily, tearing up trees and roots and screaming like a madman, but they
bore him into a canoe and paddled out beyond the breakers where the water was deep.
Then they flung him into the water and watched him sink.
"Now we are rid of him," they said, and returned to shore to tell Mahia her husband was dead. Poor Mahia ran to the water's edge and wept for her
On the following day, the braves saw something on a rock far out at sea.
Deciding it might be something good to eat, they went a-fishing, but as they came near the rock, they saw it was Mikcheech stretched out lazily in the
"As you see, my friends," he laughed at them, "I am enjoying my new home," and, rolling over into the water, he dived down into the green depths, as
all turtles do when danger approaches.
However, though Mikcheech was now safe from his foes, he was even lonelier than he had been before Glooscap changed him. The fish and the gulls
were his only companions, and he longed for speech with his own kind.
"Oh, Glooscap," he sighed in his loneliness, "you promised I should have Mahia for my wife and become chief over a new nation."
There was no reply, but as he rose to the top of the waves and looked around, Mikcheech saw a gray-green shape swimming towards him and heard
a familiar voice.
"It is I," the voice said, "Mahia, your wife."
The voice came from another turtle. Glooscap had changed Mahia too.
Now in the course of time Mahia gave Mikcheech many fine children. And so, as Glooscap had promised, Mikcheech became the father and chief over
a new race --the race of turtles --and never was lonely again.
And there, kespeadooksit --the story ends.